THE ICON SINGS ON….
Celebrated South African artist Ringo Madlingozi has been a household in this country since he hit the limelight with the hit song “Sondela” from his second album “Sondelani”. Since then the artist has won two Kora Awards for Best Male Vocalist, recorded with a British band, won several other awards and released 11 more albums. Here the singer, songwriter and producer who has risen from humble beginnings to be one of Africa,s most recognized entertainers chats to Dubani-wa-Dubani about his career and life in general.
Q. Tell us about yourself. Briefly who is Ringo?
Ringo is a brother, father, husband, artist. Ringo was born in Cape Town, the Colony of Jazz. I grew up listening to great South African Jazz artist and Mankunku Ngozi and Ezra Ngawane were my heroes. My mother also loved to sing once in a while and I guess my in my formative years my love for music blossomed because of her.
Q. When did you realize you were destined to be a musician?
It happened whilst I was at primary school. I started off playing makeshift drums in my grandmother’s backyard> I made the drum out of empty plastic bottles which I dug into the ground at different levels to produce the sound I wanted. I experimented until I got the sound I wanted from the bottles. Snare drum, bass drum, tom-tom, all the drum sounds I could imagine. I would then happily play them and imitate the hits of the times as best as I could. My granny would at times scold me for making noise but she eventually learnt to live with me and noise. I was a one man band, playing my plastic bottle drums and singing. I loved to play for and audience even back then. Some of my neighbours would once in a while come and watch. I guess never had more than ten people at watching me at one time but to a ten year boy ten is big audience. It gave me the feeling I get nowadays when I play to huge crowds in stadiums and amphitheaters. It was during those early days that some people realized I had talent and urged me to take music seriously and one thing lead to another. In a way I am not surprised to be living the musical life.
Q. Tell us more
After matric I was nearly lost to music and would probably ended up in gutter had my cousin Makhosonkhe who is brother to McCoy Mrubata not intervened. Our mothers are sisters and that is what makes us cousins. He encouraged me to team up with other guys and form the group Peto, which is Cape Town slang for fiend. In 1986 we entered The Shell Road to fame competition and won the first prize which was R12 000.00. It was a fortune by then. With my share I bought myself some nice clothes, takkies, a lumber jacket and other clothes a boy of my age with dreams of being a music star could buy. I used all the money to spoil myself and besides buying the clothes I don’t remember what else I did with the rest of the money. The prize also included a record deal with Gallo. Peto not only saved my musical career but my life as well.
Cape town is renowned for its gangsters and by the time Makhosonkhe took me to form Peto I had started hanging out with some of them and had lost my interest in music. In a boyish way it was cool to hang around those guys. They were the only ones in our hood who seemed to have money. They were also feared and to be their associate was had its advantages. You in way felt safe. I will always be grateful to Makhosonkhe for helping me back to my destiny and pulling me away from gangs before I went too deep.
Q. What happened to Peto?
After winning The Shell Road to fame we moved to Jo’burg because that where everything happens. Anyone who wants to make it in anything goes to Jo’burg. Business people in Jo’burg act fast when they can smell a buck. For three years we worked in different clubs. That was from 1986 and’89. There was then a lull between 1990 and 1991. Our last show as Peto was at The King’s Festival in Swaziland in 1992. After we broke up I started doing jingles for different products. I needed the money. One day I met the producer of the jingles, Robert Schroeder who convinced me to do my own thing. I then roped Allan Cameron who had been Pet’s keyboard player and we formed the group Gecko Moon. We had a moderate turntable hit “Green Green”
It was during this time that I met Chris Blackwell of Island Records and the meeting helped me find my true musical self.
Q. How did that happen?
I had gate crashed the party at which he met the late Jabu Khanyile and by chance got to talk. He asked me why I sang in English and not my mother tongue I honestly told him that I thought it better to sing in English because those who sang in Xhosa, Sotho or any other black language were looked down upon in the industry. He also then asked me what the purpose of my singing was and I told him I wanted to see myself on TV and hear my music on the radio. Blackwell then told me that Bob Marley, whom I had incidentally told him was one of my favourite artists had sung not to get on TV and radio but to pass a massage to the people and to also learn from them. At the time I thought he was saying this simple because he wanted to get rid of me from his side. I only saw his point three years later and I have not looked back since then. I had just come from France where I had been a backing vocalist for the likes of Jabu Khanyile, Dorothy Masuka and Vusi Mahlasela. When I got back to Jo’burg I reflected on the whole experience and I realized that if the French could appreciate what the artist I had been backing then I might as well go their way and record in my mother tongue as earlier advised by Black well. I did my first project and It was well received. Then I did the album Sondelani which was my first hit.
You have done 13 albums since you started off. You must surely have had you highest and lowest point. Tell us about that.
My most memorable moment is when Sondela, a song from the Sondelani album was nominated and worked the Kora award for Best Male Song on the continent. I will never forget that moment because Sondela was song that took my music beyond the South African borders and got me international recognition. The most disappointing moment was when my third album bombed. It was so painful because I had spent twice as much energy and money as I had used on Sondelani. When I did it I thought it was going to do better than Sondelani. I was only later when I thought of why it had bombed that I realized I had been playing for myself and had not thought about the audience out there. I had a huge bill from the record company and I even thought of quitting the record industry. I am glad I chose to carry on
Q. You have played and done collaboration with international artist…?
Oh yes. I have done collaborations with UB40 and Oliver Mutukudzi. These were successful projects which enhanced my international standing. I have also shared the stage with great artist amongst them Femi Kuti and Yossor N’do. I did duets on the stage with some of them. It a great feeling to sing with such accomplished artists and I am looking forward to doing more work with people of their caliber in future.
Q. How do you deal with the unwanted attention especially from women some of whom may have plans to take you to bed?
Such attention is not part of the path I have chosen nor do I and I not blame those who might have such thoughts. I do not take advantage of that because I am a family man and do not support the idea of sleeping around. Those women have the right to enjoy their fantasies. I just won’t be part of it.
Q. You say we can learn a lot from our culture as Africans. What is it from our tradition that we can pick and used to counter the HIV/AIDS scourge?
Respect. I have realized that most of the infidelity is done by men. Once we start respecting our women we will not sleep around. Any man who respects his woman will not have other partners. We must also learn some self respect and self love. How you do things is all about how much you love and respect yourself.
Q. Most people want their children to follow in their footsteps. Do you have such plans for your kids?
No! I want them to be whatever they may aspire to be. I create an environment that will enable them to what they want to be. If any of them chooses to be a musician then I will guide them and help them as much as I can because people in this industry can be ruthless.
Q. And you musical plans for the future…
I love music and performing on stage so I guess I will continue recording and playing for a long time to come
Thanks for your time and good luck. We are looking forward to a good show next month.
You are welcome. I will surely give my best as I always do. I owe it to my audience.
Full Name: Sindile Ringo Madlingozi
D.O.B: 12 December 1964
P.O.B: Gugulethu, Cape Town
Marital Status: Married
Food: African Salad! which is porridge and sour milk. Phuto in Xhosa.
Drink: Anything that is not fizzy. I do also take some whiskey once in a while.
Book: I read a lot so what my favourite book changes from time to time. At the moment it is Dr. Credo Muthwa’s Indaba My Children
Colour: Blue and white, the colour of the sky.
Car driving: Golf 6 GTI.
Dream Car: It is the car I am driving at the moments. I guess it will always be that way. I must confess that I would like to one day drive a Lamborghini. Not buy it just drive it in a nice open space.
Favourite Artist: Several, most of whom are dead. Most are dead. Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Mama Mariam Makeba, and Stevie Wonder oh sorry Steve is alive! And I just love Thandiswa’s music and Vibe.
Movie: I am not into movies. The movie I watched was Leon Schuster’s Mr. Bones and that was four years ago.